Tag: communication

LEAVING LOCKDOWN A BETTER PR PROFESSIONAL

As we are continuing to adapt to new ways of living and working amid the Coronavirus crisis, dare I say that there finally appears to be a slight glimmer of light at the end of a turbulent and challenging tunnel.

Normal has and is continuing to change. Our lives will be impacted by this pandemic for many months to come. And, despite the overwhelming feeling that we are navigating through these unprecedented times together, I cannot help but think that our own experiences will be vastly different.

We are at the brink of a nationwide recession, unemployment rates are rising and most tragically, people are still losing their lives and loved ones to Covid-19. I’m sure I can speak for the majority of people when I say there have been some extremely dark days during this lockdown period.

Yet, despite being drenched in this daily wave of negativity, I must look within my own situation and be at least thankful that many key elements of my daily life have remained intact, especially when it comes to work.

Positivity in the workplace

Like many sectors across the UK, the PR industry hasn’t eluded the damaging impact of the Coronavirus. Here at Open Comms, however, we are fortunate enough that the entire team have managed to keep a sense of business as usual throughout this global crisis.

This transition has certainly not been without its challenges. Similar to many companies across the country, we have all been working remotely. Our processes have had to be modified but we have largely ensured that the services we deliver have remained uncompromised.

This is why I feel fortunate, but it’s not the only reason. When I look back at my own lockdown experience, I recognise that through necessity I have gained valuable new skills, adopted more efficient working practices and my PR skillset is continuously improving.

Learning to adapt

It was inevitable that as the marketplace was impacted by this widespread disruption. Many businesses would have to, rather quickly, change their strategies going forward and for the foreseeable future. This was no different with our clients, and we had to therefore taken both a proactive and a reactive approach.

This was most evident on our clients’ social media channels. To reflect the current climate, we had to completely revise the messaging and tone of a program of activity we had previously collated. In order to avoid any inactivity on these platforms, the new content had to be turned around quickly and then shared across multiple platforms immediately.

Another client reacted to the Covid-19 crisis by amending a critical support service, so it is available to those who need it most at this time. Prior to the launch of this new scheme we took a proactive approach by specifically targeting media titles that have already shown an appetite for sharing this content around the subject.

Upon contacting members of the media, we also repurposed the press release to highlight each specific region in order to secure as much coverage as possible. Following this update, the story was covered throughout the UK, including every region this service is available in.

True value of regular communications

It is at times of crisis that positive communications play such a vital role. At times, PR may not be seen as a ‘must have’ by many, but I believe it is now evident just how valuable it can be. The success of a company can often be attributed to its reputation, and nobody understands how better to grow this then communication experts.

Aside from the successes we have achieved on behalf of our clients in lockdown, one of the biggest triumphs I’ve seen is how the Open Comms team has regularly and robustly continued to communicate, not just with clients, but also with each other. Shifting to remote working can be an arduous adjustment and can put daily correspondence at risk.

Whether it’s transferring our usual team meetings to morning video conferences, scheduling in private calls to further discuss work projects or simply putting on the kettle and having that much needed catch-up, tasks such as these give me that sense of normality, we all long for.

If you would like to know more about Open Comms and the services we offer, why not give us a call on 01924 862477 or contact us here.

HOW SOCIAL MEDIA CAN BE USED FOR ALL THE RIGHT REASONS

Whether we like it or not, social media is already a big part of our lives both personal and in a business capacity. And, if you’re anything like me, you spend longer than you care to admit scrolling through the latest content on Instagram.

But, as something that’s often spoken of as a bad apple, social media can be incredibly useful. Here are some of the reasons why companies should take advantage of these platforms and increase their business presence online.

Social media is a platform that can be used to reach thousands of people

With regular posts that use hashtags and competitions that offer relevant prizes, you can engage directly with your audience.

Taking this approach, you will soon create a community of like-minded people. This then means that the posts you share have the potential to reach thousands of prospective customers.

Consistency is key here and frequent posts are a sure way to increase following over time. It is important to remember that this won’t happen overnight. However, with perseverance will come results.

Create a Brand Persona

If you review the social feeds of a few of your favourite brands, you can bet they are carefully curated to appeal to a specific demographic. They will also portray that business in a certain light by using a particular tone of voice.

Using social media gives you the opportunity to show off the personality behind your brand. This can be done through organic posts, adverts, endorsed content, images of your product and also when replying to consumers questions.

Easy way to communicate

Being active on social media gives potential customers the opportunity to reach out and ask questions they might not want to approach through email or on the phone.

These platforms are the perfect medium for asking these questions and are often used as a more informal way of communicating with a business.

Keep your eye on other Brands

Being active on social media allows you to keep a watchful eye on other brands. This may even be competitors.

It is common for brands to follow competitors and is a great research tool. It may even provide inspiration or lessons of how to avoid a crisis. Learning from others is fine however copying posts or plagiarising content isn’t. It can be a fine line so is one to remain cautious of.

Crisis Management

Often, by keeping a close watch on social activity and comments, you can stop a crisis in its tracks. Taking hold before it has had chance to have an impact on your business could be invaluable.

Unfortunately, social media is often the first-place consumers go to broadcast a complaint or opinion. In some instances, this will show your brand in a negative light.

Responding to such comments gives you the opportunity to deal with any problems quickly and efficiently. It also shows other followers you take negative feedback seriously and are keen to resolve any issues.

Managing complaints professionally and with the right tone and approach could turn a negative into a positive. It is just a case of knowing how to communicate with customers online.

Using PR to enhance online presence

It may sound simple but growing a social media presence can take serious perseverance and trial and error.

As a PR agency we have seen the demand for social media management grow over the years. Access to digital communications, and the expectation from customers that brands have an online profile, has made this a key part of our clients’ briefs.

To find out how we can support as you increase your social media following and online profile in the right way, why not give us a call on 01924 862477 or contact us here.

SHARE YOUR STORY: BUILD YOUR BRAND

PR is about telling stories and building brands

Brand loyalty is not what it used to be. People don’t typically have the same affinity with a company they once did. Perhaps because we now purchase for convenience rather than experience. We access our shopping online or from conglomerates. We have absolutely no idea who served us from one day to the next. That is assuming you didn’t use self checkout.

Times have changed and so have expectations. Consumers want quick, easy and accessible. They want price checks and free returns policies. It’s no longer about relationship building or shared values, it’s about simplicity and functionality.

But what if things were to change?

What’s your story?

Storytelling is an underestimated skill.

Sharing content that is useful, insightful and meaningful has changed the landscape for brands, giving them an opportunity to create a point of difference. In a bid to stand out from the crowd, manufacturers and retailers need to let people know why they should choose one product over another.

This isn’t just about why a business started in the first place, it goes beyond that. In order to give a true impression of a company and what it stands for, an organisation needs to decide what themes will resonate with its audience(s).

It may be the values of a business, the sustainable approach it takes, its corporate social responsibility or the skill, time, effort and experience that goes into making the final product. It may be tone of voice and an honesty that is not typical within a given market or all of the above.

Whatever it happens to be, making a plan for posting content and giving consumers the opportunity to learn more about a company will equip them with the information they need to make more informed choices.

Content that matters

There is a belief that posting a blog every now and then will do the trick and sharing copy across social channels will have people flicking on the kettle and grabbing a cup of tea ready to sit down for a good read.

The truth is that people are just as busy as you are.

It is therefore necessary for brands to consider this and to condense copy so that it can be shared in a way that will appeal to the widest overall audience. It is fine to draft a blog, but break the copy up and then provide a revised version which will share the main points across social channels. If people want to read more they can. Working in this way gives them the choice.

Organisations should map out what the audience needs, wants and what they will enjoy. It may be industry specific topics, thought leadership articles, advice and guidance or something more light-hearted, such as a weekly update from the workforce.

Identifying what is most likely to work will save time and also keep people coming back for more. There is no point in sharing the same content over and over. This is a chance to mix things up and to give a brief glimpse behind closed doors.

Content that changes behaviours

Marketing and PR can be a reoccurring point on agendas which never gets the attention it deserves.

What business owners may fail to realise is that well written copy that is shared regularly can change behaviours. That means that people could switch from purchasing one brand to another based on access to information and strategic storytelling.

Some brands do this very well and use the opportunity to share updates as a way of reiterating the importance of every purchaser to them. Not only does this start to build a community of like minded people, it also gives those involved the confidence they have made the right decision.

When you think about it, would you rather purchase from a faceless, transactional business that will seemingly never give you a second thought or from a brand with personality that thanks you for your custom and directs you to useful content that you can access at your leisure.

Forcing the point

It is absolutely imperative that whatever the size of the business, those responsible for drafting copy understand the difference between selling and sharing. There is a fine line between commercial marketing and editorial PR, which can seem like a mountain to climb when you are faced with a blank sheet and a blog post to draft.

When curating content, it is a good to set out a plan. What is the purpose of the copy, what is the point and why will people read and share it? Without the answers to each of these questions, you may find you are wasting your time.

Forcing a point may come across as a sales pitch, which can do more damage than good. The purpose is rather to educate, inform and give people the detail and background they need to make an informed choice about your product and business.

That is why establishing a tone of voice will give you an edge and will make drafting copy far simpler. It will mean that you are able to inject personality and to build this over time. It doesn’t have to remain exactly the same, it can evolve and those that do become loyal follows will become a part of that journey.

Starting small, thinking big

Drafting content and sharing stories should be a part of any businesses planning and strategy if they want to build a strong and resilient brand.

Rather than make this ‘another thing to do’, the best way to implement change is to start small and think big. One suggestion would be to draft a blog a month, which is supported by social media updates across the most appropriate channels to redirect the audience to that post.

There can then be plans to increase this as the audience increases and customers become more accustomed to the sharing of regular content. Setting clear measures of success should be all the encouragement a business needs to continue. After all, if the right approach is taken, the results will follow.

AVOIDING LONG-TERM DAMAGE DURING A CRISIS

Avoiding long-term damage during a crisis

It’s fair to say that for most of us the novelty of working from home has worn off. There are serious decisions to be made that will impact on the lives of those around us. Uncertainty is causing anxiety and sleepless nights are becoming the norm. That is why we all need to focus on avoiding long-term damage during a crisis.

Business owners could be forgiven for finding these times the most stressful of their careers. Although most companies are facing the same challenges, the difference is how they are handled.

Stop, think, act

The best organisations are those that call upon the varied skills and quirks of colleagues. This means there are a range of personalities within a business to contend with. While during normal times this doesn’t cause too much of a problem, when times are tough these differences will be magnified.

Encouraging everyone within the team to stop, think and then act is just one approach that can dilute potential fallout. The last thing any company needs is for someone to make a rash decision that will have long-term implications.

Calling upon those with the most relevant expertise to lead is likely to deliver a more positive outcome. Carrying on with business as usual simply won’t work.

Communicating clearly

It is important that any company recognises the value in communicating clearly with its audiences. Not only does this gives customers, suppliers and staff the confidence they need, but it also reflects positively on the brand.

Taking the time to think carefully about what is being said and to whom is a good starting point. It is then about delivering these messages consistently and across the relevant channels.

As these are unprecedented times, audiences don’t expect that companies have all the answers. They do however want honesty and transparency. Authenticity is a word that is overused in PR but brands that can communicate in this way will almost certainly be most resilient.

Finding the silver lining

As contracts are cancelled, budgets are cut and staff are furloughed there seems to be no silver lining to this dark cloud.

During a crisis it is often best to say as little as possible and to stick to the facts, however there has never been a situation like this. Most businesses are facing the same challenges at the same time.

Rather than focusing entirely on the negative, use this as an opportunity. Share the values of a business and show what organisations are doing to support others. CSR (corporate social responsibility) is very much front of mind at present, so ensuring that this is communicated is essential.

It may be that employees are standing outside each Thursday and clapping at 8pm. A company could have turned its signage blue in support of the NHS, carers and frontline workers. People may be putting together care packages or supporting neighbours. Whatever a business is doing, it may be of benefit to let others know.

Using social media for the right reasons

In recent years, social media has commonly featured in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. It may be trolling, shaming or shared content that was intended to be private. Whatever the situation, social media channels have had their fair share of negative publicity.

That was, until now.

It’s been really enlightening to see social media channels including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn used for the right reasons. With light-hearted videos shared by companies and posts offering support, it has been a welcome relief.

Companies can use these examples as best practice and look at ways that they could do the same. As long as these posts are done for the right reasons, they will add personality to a brand and engage with audiences when it matters most.

Calling upon a network

When organisations are faced with a crisis it is often exclusive. This means that they are left to handle the approach, process and consequences alone.

In this instance, everyone is in the same boat. This therefore gives businesses the chance to call upon their networks for help and support. There is no shame in asking for advice and the same can be said for offering it.

Having a company can be isolating and lonely. At times like this it is essential that we all come together and do our best for the benefit of the wider business community. We can then do our best to avoid long-term damage during a crisis.

A focus on the future

While times are tough, we all need to remain focused on the future. There is light at the end of the tunnel, we just need to get there. It is going to take resilience, solidarity, effort, positivity and mindfulness.

These are all strengths we need to call upon and we will.

In the meantime, we need to communicate consistently, remember our values and try our hardest. Before long, we will get to a point where we can celebrate all that we have achieved when faced with unprecedented adversity.

Summary

Finding ways to be more progressive and to put in place an approach that works best for a business can be a challenge. We would urge any company of any size to consider the following:

  • Stop, think and act
  • Communicate clearly
  • Try to find a silver lining
  • Use social media for the right reasons
  • Call upon your network
  • Focus on the future

We hope that this will provide a starting point and a check list for organisations to work from. No company wants this, however having plans in place can support the present while also pathing the way for a brighter future. Hopefully then we can all work towards avoiding long-term damage during a crisis. For access to information and support about your PR, marketing content and social media please call a member of the team.

LOVING LINKEDIN

Lindsey Davies LinkedIn

I have to admit I’m loving LinkedIn. I’ve had a bit of crush on the platform for some time now. I like the fact that it is a social channel that has a definitive audience with a clear purpose.

There have been some fall outs over the years, as people have posted personal updates and others have made it their mission to ‘police’ the professional platform. However, I still feel it is a positive space to connect with others.

It is now very much a ‘go to’ for recruiters and individuals to showcase their talents, achievements and expertise.

Leaving the trolls behind

The conversations on LinkedIn focus on finding new contacts and sharing work-based content with a network that you have pre-approved. In order to share with someone, you first must make them a connection. This limits the amount of spam and unsolicited messages you receive.

As well as ensuring the information you access is interesting and relevant, this approach also leaves the trolls at the door. Twitter has become a breeding ground for bad behaviour, which requires governance and endless monitoring. In contrast, LinkedIn is able to build its credibility as a platform of choice for business.

Simple and effective

One of the first things I do each morning is scan through my LinkedIn feed. There is always an abundance of content and it varies depending on who has posted. Given the industry I work in, there is no consistency about who I follow; if I find a person or brand interesting then I will follow or connect.

It’s not unusual for me to wake up to someone posting an amazing view from a run or a report that looks at category insight about a given market. Both give me a reason to read, consider and reflect.

Posting to LinkedIn is simple and accessing a profile from the app has improved over the years. Reiterating it as a tool of choice for companies, at most events there is an option to scan a name badge and connect with someone through a QR code.

Not only does this reiterate the importance of LinkedIn for individuals and organisations but it also showcases how easy it is to use.

Posts and articles

What I like most about LinkedIn is the articles. As someone that writes for a living this will come as no surprise. What appeals to me most is that I can share my thoughts and opinions while also receiving clear analytics.

Unlike some social media channels, LinkedIn has the credibility that comes from relying on people to input their own professional information. This leads to fewer dormant or ‘fake’ accounts and more people that genuinely want to connect and converse.

Knowing those that I am connected with means that when someone leaves a comment or likes my article I will respond. This then leads to genuine and meaningful discussion. There is no harm in having a point of view and I find LinkedIn a more balanced place to do this.

I try to share an article at least once a month and have mixed them up a bit recently. Some focus on business and others are more personal. I don’t feel there is any harm in this as the objective is the same; people get to learn more about me and the way that I work.

Making the most of company pages

As an agency we manage company pages for our clients and provide advice and guidance on personal profiles. For me, once your profile is updated, it’s all about posting regular updates and spending five to ten minutes liking other information you have found useful.

I have met lots of people that have explained how they ‘don’t know how to do LinkedIn’ but the truth is that you don’t have to. The platform does much of it for you and will guide you through the steps to becoming an ‘All Star’.

You can then take your time working out the rest and can pay to become a premium member if you choose.

As well as updating your status, it is important to remember your company page. This is a reflection of your business to the outside world and gives employees a chance to share their thoughts and feelings about an organisation.

With this comes an authenticity that is rarely found elsewhere. Although company pages can be monitored and posts can be removed, they are often a true indication of the culture at a company. This is reflective of employees and what they share.

It is also a fantastic tool for building an employer brand and encouraging the best talent to your organisation. After all, if you employees are sharing the positives about your business, you don’t have to.

Grouping together

You can also join groups on LinkedIn, comment on articles and share links to external web pages that could add some value for those that are following you.

Again, the beauty about LinkedIn for me is that it is simple, effective and professional.

As someone that isn’t looking for a change of career or a new job, some people may ask why I bother with the platform. The truth is I know that many of my contacts visit the site and access the content that I share. As such, like any social channel, it is a valuable way for me to share news from the business.

Engaging with groups isn’t something I do as often as I should. I am a member of some groups but prefer to use them to read articles or links that are shared as opposed to creating relationships that are exclusively online.

One group I have been a member of for years is the Yorkshire Mafia. I joined because I thought it sounded interesting and slightly controversial. More importantly, the philosophy of the group that we are ‘stronger together’ also stood out for me.

With 22,000 pre-approved members it has a strong following and has been commended as one of the most productive groups on LinkedIn. I would recommend that anyone who just wants to join a positive and informative community of people takes the time to join.

Making the time

As with everything, updating LinkedIn takes time and any post that you share will be potentially available to world. So, while it may be easy to update your status, the same rules apply as to any channel.

My recommendation would be to set aside five or ten minutes a day and to review the content on your feed before liking, sharing and then updating your own status.

It doesn’t have to take hours and shouldn’t become a chore. If you set out with the mindset that it is part of your business processes, and a way to access information you may otherwise never have come across, then you lead with the benefits.

Looking to the future

I’m not sure what the future holds for LinkedIn. It is certainly a recruiters’ dream, and I can see why. Some of the updates I have had access to from the company, such as insights, have been developed with this audience in mind but there will be others in the pipeline.

Given I started this by saying I’m loving LinkedIn, I urge people to use the space to listen, learn and share. Given the updates that have been made to the functionality over the last year, I would expect further exciting features and updates are yet to come.

Only time will tell, but I believe LinkedIn has a great opportunity to take ownership and become the social channel for business. Whether a competitor comes along is to be debated, but it will take something special to catch my eye.

A BRAND WITH LITERALLY NO PERSONALITY

LinkedIn has become a platform of choice for me over the last year or so. I like the fact it knows what it wants to be and that it is a work in progress. Having met with some of the team, they acknowledge there is more to be done but that the functionality has been developed to benefit business.

There is no other platform that has taken ownership of becoming an online portfolio of CVs that gives businesses access to a global database of talent like LinkedIn – or certainly not that I have come across.

Company pages on LinkedIn

We manage the Company Pages for some of our clients and make sure to post a selection of news, articles and coverage. We also engage with other brands and businesses to keep the feeds interesting and informative.

As a business that never stops learning, we review other pages to see what companies are doing and what ‘tricks of the trade’ are working. Applying best practice, we can then make recommendations that we know add value.

Making contacts, or not!

This morning when I was reviewing my own LinkedIn feed, I came across an impressive ‘company’ page. It was visual, informative, punchy and had a tone of voice that appealed to me. The page was obviously updated regularly but what stood out as very strange was there was no contact.

I think the page had been set up as a person but should have been a company. So, to be clear, it said ‘Owner of widget business’ but the page was the brand, not the individual.

Inadvertently, I had come across a brand with literally no personality!

There were several reasons I found this odd, not least how had this person not realised that it was a mistake to remain nameless and how were people supposed to make contact?

LinkedIn is about connections and although company pages generate followers, it’s not the same thing.

The power of personality

I’m a big believer that ‘people buy people’ and this has worked in practice for us here at Open Communications. Many of our clients have been with us for years and we have worked with brand managers that come to us when they change company – one of the biggest compliments in our industry and not something we take for granted.

The truth is that personality is one of the very few things that a business has which is truly unique. Of course, companies can try to replicate the tone of voice, messaging and even visuals that a brand uses but it will never be the same.

There are always the values, story and culture that you can never quite replicate. Plus, most brands that try to be something they are not get caught out and it all goes horribly wrong. Authenticity may be a phrase that is overused, but it resonates with audiences.

Keeping it real

The lesson I learnt from this morning’s encounter was that I will make it my mission to ensure that every company director we work with takes full credit for their business on LinkedIn, giving those that want to make an introduction the opportunity to do so.

I will also explain the difference between a personal and company page so that they don’t make any mistakes that could cost them sales.

I can see no reason for having a ‘social’ channel and not being visible as a person. The whole thing really is quite baffling.

As a business that wants to attract customers, this really does need to be addressed and I hope that it is. The page deserves to get the attention that it is attracting but I expect that the leads it could convert are fewer than they should be for this very reason.

THE LATEST DETOX ISN’T A DIET

The amazing scenery looking over St Aiden’s RSPB reserve

Working in PR means that you have to keep abreast of the social media tools that are available and provide a platform for people to communicate. Stands to reason really, given that we are responsible for sharing information and managing the reputation of brands both online and in print.

Being of a particular age (38 for those that are too polite to ask) I haven’t exactly grown up surrounded by tech but it has been in the background for probably as long as I can remember. We certainly didn’t have smart phones when I was at school, college or university, but we had the first handheld games systems and some functionality to communicate online.

It was only really when I left university that digital communications started to become ‘a thing’ and many a PR – myself included – took great pleasure in demoting the fax machine to the back of a cupboard to collect dust as we opted instead to use email.

The real changes though occurred when I had been in work for a number of years and platforms such as Facebook started to make their mark. Some came and went, while others became integral to our lives – not a statement that I think even the founders really considered in terms of scale and global dominance. Let’s not get started about governance and regulatory controls, I’ll save that for another blog.

The very real threat of social media – and it’s not the trolls

Over recent weeks I’ve noticed that there has been a shift in tone when it comes to the use of social media. There was a time when there seemed to be a certain expectation that people would have regular access to as many apps as they could manage. The more the merrier was the general consensus and if you didn’t have the latest you were considered ‘so last season’.

Facebook, SnapChat, WhatApp, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn to name a few became more of a reflection of our lives and social dalliances than actually going out. Showing someone your dinner was top of the list, quickly followed by a pouty selfie that may or may not have had a filter!

In the most part, I’m pleased to say I dodged this desire to share everything online, but I did find that I was becoming increasingly reliant on the social channels to fill downtime. No longer was I reaching for a book or chatting to my husband and friends, I would reach for my phone and see who had updated their status on Facebook.

It was at the same time that Chris Evans was commenting on having a detox from tech and the benefits that he felt from moving away from a world that was powered by the internet. At first I wondered what he was making such a fuss about, but the more he explained the more it started to resonate.

Then earlier this week, I opened the Yorkshire Post to see a comment piece from Business Editor, Mark Casci, with the headline ‘Use summer to wean yourself off the smartphone’. So much of what he had written made perfect sense to me.

Within his article he writes: ‘After travelling back in time through my history as a phone consumer (aided naturally with a few web searches on my phone to establish chronology) I came to the uncomfortable realisation that it had been well over more than a decade since I truly “switched off”’

It was at this moment I realised this was the case for me too.

Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery

There seems to be so much talk about people turning tech off and trying their hardest to get some balance back in their lives. We are all, it would seem, slaves to the smartphone and I’m no exception. I may not pout for selfies at every opportunity but I certainly stare into a screen far more than is healthy or necessary.

One of the ways I rationalise my ‘habit’ is by telling myself it’s for work, that someone might need me and that if a client emails, texts or sends a WhatsApp message at 10pm at night it is my obligation and responsibility to get back to them.

When I read that sentence I can see how unreasonable it is, but when you have a business it can be difficult to judge yourself by the parameters you would set for your own colleagues or suppliers.

As an example, if I happened to be working late and sent a supplier an email, I wouldn’t expect a response until the next day. Furthermore, if I got one I would feel guilty that I had encroached on their free time as opposed to being pleased that they had stopped everything to get back to me.

Mark sums it up really well in his piece when he writes: ‘Perhaps the worst aspect of realising how much I used my phone was coming to terms with the arrogance it entails, the idea that I must check my messages or the world will end.’

A truer word has rarely been said. This is me all over. I am constantly checking my phone for emails and then wonder why I feel anxious. There really is no need.

It’s time for things to change  

I’m not usually a follower of trends and I certainly could never be accursed of being a dedicated follower of fashion – in any capacity – but this is a bandwagon I’m well and truly jumping on the back of.

We recently welcomed Duke, a Cocker Spaniel puppy into our household (that’s another story and worthy of another blog) and as well as getting us up at 5.30am every morning he has also brought about a change.

I don’t know why, but during our walks I decided not to take my phone. At the time it seemed like a bold and brave step but, like Mark, I quickly realised the world wasn’t going to end.

In fact, thanks to our walks I have the chance to chat to my husband about the day ahead and what’s going on at work or with family and friends. It’s very cathartic as we glance out across the beautiful landscape at St Aiden’s RSPB reserve each morning and evening.

Although it’s only 2 hours of my day, I think it’s a good start and it does give me the head space to think about things more rationally. One of the biggest challenges with social media is that it is so immediate and whereas receiving news in this way can be beneficial, responding in the same manner rarely is.

I think that’s where some of the problems with social channels come from; act first and think later which in turn causes lasting damage either to yourself or someone else.

I’m not saying for one minute that I am going to close my social accounts, I don’t see the point given that this is how I stay in touch with an extensive family that are dotted around the world and my business relies on these channels, but I am going to limit my use.

I’m hoping that like Chris and Mark I can report back on the positive difference that this makes, and I fully intend to go home tonight and reach for a book rather than my phone.

If you are thinking about a tech detox or have given up altogether, how has it gone and what experiences can you share? All comments are welcome.

THE POWER OF PERSONALITY

Long has it been said that people buy people but actually the same can be said for brands. What I mean is that increasingly consumers are looking for brands that align with their values and their personalities and therefore the more a business can create a product, campaign or company with character the better.

Starting with marketing materials

The way that marketing literate is designed impacts on whether someone will pick up the piece in the first place and the way it is written will determine if someone will read it. The tone of voice will then either appeal to someone and make them receptive to the message or not.

This is then often followed up by a call, an email or a meeting, all providing a further insight into the personality of a business. This is where people come in and why it’s important that those you employ believe in your product or service in the same way that you do.

As a PR agency working with many different brands across a range of sectors, we always make it clear to our clients that we have to understand and buy into whatever it is they are offering in the same way that they do.

We are essentially an extension of our clients’ marketing and sales functions and there is nothing worse than listening to someone drone on knowing that they are either reading from a script or don’t really care about the company they represent. 

Then there is social media to consider in this mix and that can be a whole new headache. Sharing the same content across all platforms is a classic way to fall at the first hurdle. Think about it, each channel has been created to differ from each other and even if they target the same audience, the functionality they offer can bring a range of benefits to a business, if they are used correctly.

The harsh reality is that some channels don’t work for business. It doesn’t matter how long you spend on them or what budget you assign, they just won’t engage with the people you want to communicate with, so don’t use them. Simple. Put your efforts into something that will deliver a return on investment.

The truth is that marketing isn’t brain surgery. Fundamentally, any marketing campaign, whatever channel you use is about creating an affinity between product and person. It’s a complex tapestry of ‘touch points’ and many have their part to play but there are only so many hours in a day. 

A planned launch

The reality in business is that when a company launches they often have the luxury of time. They are able to take a step back and to think carefully about their marketing which includes design, message and preferred channel. Then, when they become more established, all that goes out of the window.

They no longer have time for the ‘fun stuff’ it’s all about keeping machines running, staying on top of suppliers, invoicing at the end of the month, managing staff and of course nurturing and growing the customers base – but the relationship no longer becomes a focus.

What a huge mistake! 

It’s like making friends with someone and taking the time and effort to become BFF before then turning your back and walking away – because you’re just too busy – but then expecting them to be there when you need them.

They may be. But when it comes to loyalty and brands, you have to remember, for the benefit of this analogy, there is a pub full of friends just waiting to take your place and that’s why it’s so important for businesses to put marketing – in all its forms – firmly on the agenda.

It has always baffled me that when times are tough – or as has appeared to be the case over the last 18 months turbulent – the first budgets that people pull are those that have been allocated to marketing.

I appreciate that factories need to keep running, staff need to be paid and that keeping the metaphorical plates spinning is a priority, but that doesn’t mean you should stop communicating and take your eye off what is arguably the biggest asset a business has: its reputation.

There are few things more exciting than seeing the launch programmes from a new start-up, particularly those that come from former entrepreneurs that have made the mistakes only to come out of the other end stronger and more determined than ever.

Putting marketing front and centre

What is most interesting is that many – or I’d even go as far as to say most – of these businesses put marketing front and centre. Yes, they may be clever with their budgets, but communication and a strong launch campaign with sustainable messaging and a longer term plan is never far from their boardroom table.

For all those businesses out there that are looking for the winning formula – those that are looking for the one thing that they feel is missing – I can almost guarantee it goes back to personality because a company with no character is like a shop window with no display.

In a time when high streets have never struggled so much, yet start-ups that are eager to please are on the rise, it’s imperative that businesses think carefully about their budgets, where they are putting their cash and what they are getting in return.

Marketing will deliver if managed well and whether you choose to appoint in-house or to work with an agency, a good solid campaign that you can get excited about and that delivers against objectives will make all of the difference.

Create your character, underpin it with the values of your business, inject some personality and start to engage with people. You’ll be surprised at what can be achieved when you think like a start-up and go back to basics.

 

Ten years on: what a difference a decade makes

phonemaster.eu

Image from thefonemaster.eu

As the iPhone celebrates ten-years, we look back and see what a difference a decade makes. After all, once upon a time we had mobile phones to make telephone calls – simple – but now we consider them a lifeline and an essential tool to support our daily lives.

Many of us take for granted the myriad of apps that we can download, as we’ve come to expect that there will be a world wide web full of information at our fingertips, but as sales of the iPhone exceed one billion, making Apple the most valuable business on the globe, is there a darker side to the tech that we rely on?

A study by Deloitte in 2016 found that four out of every five people have a smart phone, that’s a huge number and it just proves that we have all become somewhat dependent on our electronic devices. The study also went on to say that with the fear of missing out means that we access our phones during the morning, noon and night with many people admitting that they check their screens as soon as they wake up.

I also read an article recently which said that children no longer use their imaginations in the same way as their parents did as they never have the chance to get bored. What an awful thought. The impact of technology means that children are constantly amused and as such don’t need to make things up or create new games – it’s all done for them.

When the iPhone first launched Steve Jobs was quoted as saying “This is only the beginning”, and perhaps retrospectively this was a huge understatement as consumers eagerly anticipate the launch of the iPhone 8, which will bring with it further user benefits.

No longer is it good enough that we can research, engage, share, photograph, navigate and video using our phones, we expect even more from them, further embedding them into our everyday lives.

What we seem to ignore, while we await the next big thing in technology, is that phones aren’t always used for good. Consider for example how they are used for bullying in schools, something that young people have come to expect, but which should never, ever be socially accepted.

Then there are consumer complaints; we all know that we can tweet a brand and that they ‘should’ get back to us but we’ve come to expect an immediate response.

What surprises me is that people believe that they have the god given right to be rude to people when they are complaining online. I can’t understand how they don’t realise that there is still someone who has to deal with their comments on the other side of the computer and that they are probably not directly responsible for the fault or reason that an individual is disgruntled.

We all need to take a step back and to think a little more. It’s not ok to be rude and it’s not ok to feel that we can harass and berate someone because they work for a brand. Be polite. Be courteous. Treat other people like you would want to be treated!

Don’t get me wrong, there are clearly great things about having a device that can support and facilitate everyday life and that allows us to keep in touch with family and friends on a daily basis across the globe, but perhaps it is time to stop and think.

Do we rely too much on our phones and what benefits are they really bringing to our lives? Brands can use them to collate data and to target us with marketing messages to influence our purchases, while apps such as Snapchat are using GPS to show the world where we are and what we are doing.

There comes a point where you can have too much of a good thing and I think that when we are reaching for our phones at bedtime rather than our partners it is a clear example of misguided priorities.

Steve Jobs was right, it is only the beginning but let’s all hope it isn’t the beginning of the end. As a professional working in communication I want to champion chatter that doesn’t require a WIFI password or a log in.

Making an exhibition of yourself

mafia conference

As you would probably expect, I have attended a number of exhibitions throughout the UK in recent years and have enjoyed the vast majority. As well as attending as a delegate, I have also worked with clients to provide support and to become the face of the brand, which has given me a useful insight into both sides of the experience.

There is absolutely no doubt that for those taking space at exhibitions it is hard work, both in the run up to and during. There is a lot of planning and preparation to consider and often associated costs that people forget about when they make their booking.

Over the years I’ve come to realise that there is a certain amount of naivety when it comes to exhibiting coupled with wild expectations that often result in disappointment, but that really shouldn’t be the case.

The truth about exhibitions is that you only get out of it what you put in. Harsh but true.

Here are just a few of the myths that I have come across:

–          I’ve booked a stand and therefore I will sell my products

–          There are thousands of people expected so I will sell my products

–          My stand looks great and I’ve invested in a designer so I will sell my products

–          You can win an iPad so I will sell my products

There is a consistent theme here and the truth of the matter is that you will not sell your products unless you change your focus. Exhibitions gives you the platform but you need to make that work for the consumer, in this case the delegates.

Too often exhibitors take the high ground when actually they should remember that every person that comes through that door is a potential customer. Sitting behind a table and expecting someone to come over and ask you questions is simply not good enough.

The best stands that I have seen have been colourful, fun and engaging. In more recent times there are often games or interactive elements that mean your dwell time is longer and the experience with that brand is more memorable.

What often surprises me is that a business will send junior members of a team or sampling staff with no briefing what-so-ever to manage a stand, often at a leading exhibition. A classic example was at the BBC Good Food Show last year.

I went along to the stand of a brand I know well and asked to see the director. The young lady managing the stand was quick to inform me that “Betty* is far too important to come to exhibitions, she has better things to do with her time, that’s why she sends us”.

I was absolutely flabbergasted. So, this business has paid thousands of pounds for a stand, for transport, for product, for staff and yet doesn’t feel that the exhibition is important enough to make an appearance, really?

I’m not suggesting that business owners should attend all exhibitions, it would be impractical to do so, but at the very least brief the team you are using to manage your reputation in front of thousands of people.

I would certainly want to know that those representing our brand at an exhibition would not only be pleasant, engaging and friendly but would also understand and reflect our values, something that we feel is fundamental to our business.

So, here’s a few top tips and perhaps a couple of things to think about for those who have exhibitions coming up:

  1. If you want to get the most out of an exhibition, put aside some investment, you’re going to need it.
  2. Consider how to make your stand engaging and how you will encourage people to stay for longer.
  3. Commission a designer, yes it can be expensive but it will be worth it. Pull-up banners have their place but it isn’t at a leading exhibition! Get printed PVC panels that fit to size and create a space you can be proud of.
  4. Remember, you are no more important than those who are coming through the door, they are your prospective clients.
  5. If you have to have a table and chairs don’t sit on them looking at your phone. Think about your body language and what message you are relying to delegates. If it’s ‘I would rather be anywhere else’ then you may as well go home.
  6. Don’t expect people to come over to you, make an effort and ask them a question so that they know you are willing to chat.
  7. If there are events before or after the exhibition go along. They are not ‘a waste of time’ or for people who just want a drink. They are further opportunities to meet with people and to get greater value from the money you have invested.
  8. Brief the people that will be representing your brand and business. Cover everything from the way you expect them to dress to the way they position your business and everything in between. You are putting your business in their hands, take this seriously.
  9. If you are attending, take the time to visit other stands. You have something in common by being there, so make contacts.
  10. Don’t expect to make a million pounds, be realistic. Go with the intention of making strong contacts and building relationships, that way you won’t leave disappointed.